The walls of the French Cultural Center in the Gaza Strip were spray painted with graffiti before dawn Saturday in reaction to a cartoon published in the latest issue of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo whose cover depicts the prophet Mohammed holding a “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) sign under the headline “All is forgiven.”
“You will go to hell, French journalists,” read one of the slogans daubed on the walls of the cultural center compound, which has been closed since it was damaged in a fire last October.
“Anything but the prophet,” read another.
Police were deployed outside the compound’s main gate as well as on the adjacent main road, an AFP correspondent reported.
Last month, a bomb attack claimed by small ultra-conservative Islamist group Jund Ansar Allah caused minor damage to the compound’s walls.
The Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly published its newest issue a week after attacks by three Islamists on its offices, a kosher supermarket and a policewoman, left 17 people dead in and around Paris over three days, in raids that deeply shocked the country and sparked an outpouring of international support.
The terrorists who killed 12 at the Charlie Hebdo offices, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, allegedly attacked the publication for its portrayal of Muhammad and were directed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attacks and attended a mass anti-extremism rally in Paris on Sunday, along with several dozen world leaders. Hamas condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices but ignored the attack on the kosher super market in which four Jewish men were killed.
Protests against the cartoon in Muslim countries continued on Saturday, with police in Niger firing tear gas at protesters in response to stone-throwing by the demonstrators.
At least 1,000 youths assembled at the grand mosque in the capital Niamey, some of them throwing rocks at police while others burned tires and chanted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Greatest”).
Saturday’s protest came a day after a policeman and three civilians were killed and 45 injured in protests against Charlie Hebdo in Niger’s second city of Zinder, which saw three churches ransacked and the French cultural center burned down.
Many Muslims see any depiction of Islam’s prophet as offensive, while many Western governments support Charlie Hebdo’s position that publishing the cartoons is an exercise in freedom of expression.
French President Francois Hollande on Saturday stressed that the country had “principles, values, notably freedom of expression”.
On Friday, hundreds of Muslim worshipers congregated on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to protest the new Charlie Hebdo issue, with a number of them burning the French flag at the holy site.
Some 500 demonstrators gathered following prayer services on Friday denouncing the French satirical publication for its portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad on its Wednesday cover. Protesters chanted “jihad, jihad, we will die in the name of God” followed by “Allahu Akbar” [God is great,” and “Muhammad [is] our master and leader forever.”
#شاهد .. حرق علم فرنسا في المسيرة التي خرجت نصرة لرسول الله في المسجد الأقصى المبارك بعد صلاة الجمعة ..
Posted by Shehab News Agency on Friday, 16 January 2015
Muslims across Middle East cities marched on Friday to protest the publication, as Qatar warned the image would “fuel hatred”.
The largest rally was in Jordan, where around 2,500 protesters took to the streets of the capital Amman amid tightened security.
The crowd, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and youth groups, set off from the Al-Husseini mosque in central Amman holding banners that read “insulting the prophet is global terrorism”.
Qatar condemned what it called the “offensive” cartoon, which was also reprinted by several European papers in a show of solidarity with the victims of last week’s attack.
“These disgraceful actions are in the interest of nobody and will only fuel hatred and anger,” the foreign ministry warned, describing them as a “violation of human values of peaceful coexistence, tolerance, justice, and respect among people.”.